I have been struggling of late with the general state of my little family. My two kids are completely at odds with each other, neither one respecting the other's point of view and generally going at each other in a way that criticizes their very nature. I'm so not okay with this, and it has been a source of real sadness for me for the last year or so. This is compounded by the anger it raises within me, as I watch my ex-husband wantonly and with strategic deliberation drive a wedge between them, seemingly going out of his way to pit one against the other. Our daughter, out of a sense of compassion for him and her need to ensure he is not entirely cut off from his kids (our son has no time for him at all right now), sees him and communicates with him on a regular basis. While she does see him for who he is, and recognizes the passive aggressive strategies that are definitely his M.O., of course he does have some influence over her. I find that the more time she spends with him, the more churned up she gets and that generally comes out as angry outbursts with me, and some very hurtful actions toward her brother. It's hard for her because in spite of anger for things that have been done in the past, and in spite of recognizing this M.O. of his, she does enjoy their visits for the most part. No doubt, he is grateful for the contact with her and does everything he can to make each visit perfect.
I feel that he causes all this damage, and I am left trying to fix it and clean up the aftermath - a pattern that is now getting old. In addition, we have been having many heart-to-heart conversations in our home about the general stress we have all been under, so much of which goes straight back to my ex and his shenanigans both with the kids' emotional lives and with me on financial grounds (which is really all about power). And in my own therapy, I have been dealing with the fact that the incredible hostility between him and me was never necessary, and how hard it is to know he has gone so suddenly and dramatically from "I love you" to "I hate you". I am sorting through my part in the dance, knowing that it's true, we train other people how to treat us and I have fully reinforced his nasty behaviour. But when I think of how different things could have been for the kids, for me and even for him if we'd just been able to function kindly to each other. To still be a family of sorts, just living separately. And I blame him. I wish I didn't, because it feels emotionally immature to say that even when I know I played a role in it, but it's how I feel. He has been hateful, spiteful and mean since the very beginning - he is acting just the way I feared he would. And still, I am cleaning up the messes he makes with the kids and with me. A difficult and emotional conversation with our daughter yesterday really brought all of this to mind in spades, which I guess prompted the dream.
In this dream, we both ended up at some large event where clearly I knew more people than he did. He looked uncomfortable as he just sat on the grass by himself, and I was chatting with lots of old friends. Suddenly, when I walked by him, he caught my arm and without getting up, said, "I hate to ask you this, but will you help me?" I had no idea what he meant, and I recall feeling that I wanted to say "NO!", but had this sudden pang of compassion and said, "of course, what's wrong". He told me he was embarrassed to say it, but he really had to use the washroom badly, and was afraid he wouldn't make it in time. He wanted me to follow behind him in case he didn't, so I could hide it from the others and get him to a private spot. He said he'd go ahead but could I follow right after, which I did. As he walked, he stopped abruptly, held an awkward looking pose, then ran. By that time, however, there was a very noticeable soiling all over the back of his tan coloured shorts. When I caught up with him, he was sitting on the floor in the front hall of the host's home, shorts off, and in a shockingly large pile of excrement. It was everywhere, and he looked completely mystified as to what had happened. I rubbed his shoulder, told him it would be okay and that I would help him. He got himself up, tiptoed up the stairs leaving little spots on the carpet, heading for the bathroom. I looked at the pile on the floor and realized that here I was again, cleaning up his shit.